Reynolds Middle School Improves Disproportionate Discipline
Last year we shared the story of Corey Jenkins. Corey was an eighth grader at Reynolds Middle School who was benefiting from the school’s focus on improving school-wide systems around discipline and referrals. Through our close collaboration with the school we learned how Corey was improving, and reflecting on that improvement Corey shared, “I’m proud of myself, but I have more goals to work on.”
We told Corey’s story in an effort to create a shared sense of community understanding around the impact of disproportionate discipline, especially on students of color. When students are expelled, suspended or removed from the classroom their connection to teaching and learning is broken; and they face a higher risk of dropping out of school and becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. Corey’s story was important to share because students of color, especially Black/African American students, are much more likely to be removed from the classroom.
“The positive impact of our work on the lives of our students is the single reason I do my job,” said Stacy Talus, Principal, Reynolds Middle School. “Equity work is about changing culture in our building. We are seeing progress but we still have a lot of work left to do.
Over the course of the last two years, and in partnership with All Hands Raised, the school built a team that is focused on using real-time, student-level disaggregated data to design and implement practices that are improving school culture and reducing disproportionate discipline. In addition to RMS teachers and administrators, this team includes two staff members from the Latino Network, a professional mentor of African American youth, and a mental health specialist from Trillium Family Services. This integration of community and family partners with school staff is critical to ensuring the success and sustainability of the work, particularly at a school like RMS where 74% of the students are of color.
The school has experienced a noticeable shift – school-wide referrals are down 45% from this same time last year.
“Our work is helping students be more successful,” said Lonnie Jackson, Diversity & Student Support/Empowerment Specialist and member of the school team. “Nowhere is this impact as pronounced as for our African American students who have historically been disciplined at rates well above their peers. The progress we are making matters.”
This progress includes:
- The percentage of African American students who have received a referral in a given year has dropped by 13 percentage points, from 40% to 27%.
- The percentage of all school referrals given to African American students has dropped by 16 percentage points, from 30% to 14%.
- The average number of referrals given to African American students in a year has dropped by 55%, from 3.6 to 1.6.
The success Reynolds Middle School is experiencing is rippling out through Multnomah County. Middle schools from Portland Public Schools and the Centennial School District have spent focused time on site learning from the local proven practices of RMS. Chief among those is Foundations, a relationship-focused first period where teachers meet with small groups of students to work on community building and goal setting.
“Having the opportunity to learn in partnership with Stacy and the Reynolds team is invaluable,” said George Middle School Principal Lavert Robertson. “All Hands Raised provides the necessary space and guidance for our team to think more deeply about how we integrate partners in ways that maximize impact for our students.”
The top priority of the All Hands Raised Partnership is the operationalization of racial educational equity in partnership with seven school districts and many community partners, including these key culturally specific providers: El Programa Hispano, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Jackson & Associates, KairosPDX, Latino Network, Native American Youth and Family Center, REAP, and Self Enhancement, Inc. Our schools cannot do it alone. System change is happening by building integrated teams that have never existed before and committing to never going back to a siloed approach.
Together, we are the All Hands Raised Partnership.
All Hands Raised